The Gunner Government inadequately conducted due diligence in consulting with Traditional Owners over its forced acquisition of Anzac Oval for the proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery, the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal has found.
The NTCAT released their determination on Tuesday, which examined whether the NT Government has a case to compulsorily acquire Anzac Oval from the Alice Springs Town Council for the construction of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery.
The tribunal recommended that Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics Minister Eva Lawler conduct further negotiations with Mparntwe custodians before finalizing to acquire the Anzac Oval.
Ms Lawler said that the government welcomes recommendations from the tribunal, asserting that it had not opposed the Art Gallery being in Alice Springs or being built on Anzac Oval, but has recommended that she further consult with the Mparntwe custodians.
The Alice Springs Town Council, who referred the matter to the NTCAT, supported the tribunal’s decision saying that it “encourages the Minister to seek more appropriate and genuine consultation with Traditional Owners and Council.”
The NT Government has been given 12 days to respond to the NTCAT’s ruling.
Independent Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley said in a statement that proper negotiations should have been done from the inception of the project.
“Minister Lawler has been sent off with her tail between her legs to consult with the people who should have been properly consulted with from the start,” Ms Lambley said.
She criticised the Gunner Government’s “ineptitude” for the lack of progress on the project that was first proposed five years ago.
Ms Lambley said she believes the tribunal’s ruling indicates that the project is still at square one.
“After five long years of mismanagement by the Gunner Government it seems we are still in the consultation phase for this major, game-changing project for Alice Springs,” she said.
“This has been the greatest debacle, the greatest stuff up of all time by the Gunner Government. The people of Alice Springs and Central Australia have lost out due to the incompetence and bungling of successive NT Ministers.”
Chief Minister and Treasurer Michael Gunner allocated $66.2 million for the project in this year’s budget, as two separate parts, the National Aboriginal Art Gallery and the National Indigenous Culture Centre.
In May 2020, the Gunner government announced that they would move to compulsorily acquire the land from Alice Springs Council for the art gallery.
Ms Lambley believes the land rights negotiations are far from over and that the “wishes of the custodians and the broader Alice Springs community will be ignored by the Government.”
The Government said in Parliament today that they were still committed to building the project but offered no time frame.